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Posted by John Brand on September 7, 2012
In a recent media interview I was asked about whether the requirements for data visualization had changed. The questions were focused around whether users are still satisfied with dashboards, graphs and charts or do they have new needs, demands and expectations.
Arguably, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were probably the first real "commercial" examples of data visualization (though many people before the Egyptians also used the same approach — but more often as a general communications tool). Since then, visualization of data has certainly always been both a popular and important topic. For example, Florence Nightingale changed the course of healthcare with a single compelling polar area chart on the causes of death during the Crimean War.
In looking at this question of how and why data visualization might be changing, I identified at least 5 major triggers. Namely:
In my Google Nexus device, it uses my current location and the contents of my calendar to pop up an infographic panel. This infographic panel can contain the current time, alternative route maps, traffic loads on those routes, weather information and expected travel times to ensure that I make it comfortably to my next appointment in plenty of time. You could certainly make the argument that this is not necessarily a new form of visualization, but a collection of various existing data visualization approaches. And that's exactly my argument. While many people fail to see this scenario as data visualization, to me, it's a very good example of how this market really is changing. It's certainly no longer just about historic transactional charts and graphs that the user has to read and interpret. Or even drill down BI. The new approach to data virtualization is both dynamically generated and autonomically optimized. Most of all, it answers very complex questions with a simple graphical response. Where do I have to be next and how long will it take me to get there? Which route should I take and when do I need to leave to compensate for traffic? Very complex questions, but a very simple graphical response.
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